While the US missile defense program is gaining ground in Europe and further afield in the Persian Gulf, with the announcement of an agreement with Romania, the revival of a deal with Poland and major defense contracts with the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the general consensus is that Russia must be appeased.
Since the fourth quarter of 2011, there have been a number of developments on the US missile defense system front. In mid-September, Turkey signed an agreement with the US to host NATO’s early warning radar to counter ballistic missile threats – of which Iran is now the most obvious perceived threat.
Iranian officials called on Turkey to reverse this decision, warning of major repercussions for the two countries’ relations.
In December, Romania signed a Missile Defense Agreement that will allow the deployment of the US ballistic missile defense system on Romanian territory, specifically at the Deveselu Air Base, as part of NATO’s European Phased Adaptive Approach to missile defense.
Plans for Poland are also shifting into place, though this more than other development has been of great concern to Russia. The Bush-era proposal to have Poland host a missile defense system at a base near its border with the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad was revised and slightly scaled down by the Obama administration, but is essentially the same: Poland will host 24 missile interceptors on Kaliningrad.
Defense budget cutbacks threatened to stymie the deal with Poland, but recent efforts to bring the perceived threats emanating from Iran back into the spotlight have increased the importance of Poland’s contribution. Polish officials have indicated that they expect to be fully operational with 24 interceptors by 2018.
While Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were armed with US weapons systems from 2007-2009, there is now a new impetus for an integrated missile defense system to counter the perceived Iranian threat.
In early January, two major defense contractors, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, won contracts to help Saudi Arabia and friends in the Persian Gulf build an integrated missile defense shield in response to the perceived Iranian threat. Lockheed Martin is the main contractor.
Raytheon’s $582.5 million is to supply the United Arab Emirates with AN/TPY-2 radars for THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile system), according to UPI. Earlier, on 25 December, the UAE acquired two units with 96 interceptor missiles in a $3.48 billion deal with the US. Deployed two years ago, the US also controls an AN-TPY-2 unit in Israel’s Negev desert, south of Tel Aviv.
THAAD sales to Saudi Arabia are still in process, but the deal will likely see the Saudis acquire upgrades to their 16 Patriot Advanced Capability-2 batteries (96 missiles in terms of capability) and DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class Aegis destroyers armed with ballistic defense missiles.
The Saudis are also planning to purchase perhaps a dozen new warships. Kuwait is also part of a Raytheon deal. Moscow’s concerns about Washington’s missile defense plans may be assuaged, at least that is the direction that US President Barack Obama seems to be indicating if he manages to secure another term in office.
Already, Washington and NATO have said they would cooperate with Russia on the missile defense system, though the exact nature of that cooperation has yet to be determined. In May, NATO will reveal the “interim capabilities” of its missile defense system at a summit which newly elected President Vladimir Putin has declined to attend in advance.
And nothing concrete will happen by way of Russian-US cooperation until the dust settles in the next US presidential election. What Moscow wants is proof that the US missile defense system will not render its own nuclear deterrent irrelevant.
Ellen Tauscher, Obama’s envoy for Strategic Stability and Missile Defense, recently told reporters that the US was hoping to bring “Russia inside the missile defense tent now.” That does not mean, however, that Washington is planning on limited the system’s capabilities or sharing classified information with Russia.
Putin will likely get what he wants, and his return to presidential power in Russia is no small thing where it concerns future geopolitical realities. Washington will find itself giving in to Moscow over missile defense, possibly in return for some guarantees from Moscow where it concerns future relations with China and Pakistan, for starters.
By Jen Alic for ISA Intel